MILLER, P. J., REESE and HODGES, JJ.
Terrell Smith appeals from a judgment of conviction on a
charge of possession of drug related objects. She contends that
the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress. For
the reasons set forth infra, we vacate the trial court's
judgment and remand this case to the trial court with
record shows that, on June 6, 2017, Smith was a passenger in
a car that was stopped by Clayton County police officers.
During the stop, the officers directed Smith and the driver
to exit the car and then searched the car, but they found no
drugs or other contraband. Another officer arrived, searched
Smith, and found a glass pipe containing methamphetamine
residue inside a cigarette box in a pocket of her cargo
pants. After Smith was arrested and charged, she filed a
motion to suppress, contending that the search of her person
was performed without her consent, violated her
constitutional rights, and was otherwise illegal. Following a
hearing, the court denied the motion to suppress.
16, 2018, the trial court conducted a "stipulated bench
trial[ ]" during which it adjudicated Smith guilty on
the charge of possession of drug related objects
(hereinafter, "charge"). However, during the
proceeding, the State told the court that Smith was
"pleading to[ ]" the charge, and Smith's
defense counsel informed the court of the sentence to which
the parties had agreed. Defense counsel also reminded the
court that the parties and the court had agreed that Smith
would be released from jail "during the pendency of the
appeal," presumably referring to the instant challenge
to the denial of the motion to suppress.
17, 2018, Smith filed a Notice of Appeal, and the trial court
clerk transmitted the record to this Court. However, the
trial court's judgment of conviction was inadvertently
left out of the record, and the appeal was dismissed on
November 5, 2018. After the trial court supplemented the
record with the judgment order, the appeal was reinstated on
November 14, 2018.
reviewing the merits of Smith's appeal, this Court
observed that the trial court's judgment of conviction
clearly states that Smith's conviction was based upon a
negotiated guilty plea, as opposed to a judgment of guilt
following a bench trial.Given the statements made by the State
and defense counsel during the "stipulated bench trial[,
]" this Court is uncertain as to how to proceed in the
axiomatic that "[a] defendant waives any error in the
denial of [her] motion to suppress by pleading guilty[.] This
is true even when the prosecutor and the trial court agree
that[, ] if the defendant pleads guilty, [she] would still be
able to appeal the issue." Consequently, if Smith's
conviction resulted from a negotiated guilty plea, as shown
on the judgment of conviction, she effectively waived her
challenge to the denial of her motion to suppress, and this
Court would not reach the merits of this
these circumstances, we vacate the trial court's judgment
of conviction and remand this case to the trial court to
either correct the judgment to show that Smith was convicted
following the July 16, 2018 stipulated bench trial, or
conduct a guilty plea hearing that complies with Uniform
Superior Court Rule 33.8 and, if Smith pleads guilty and the
trial court accepts the plea, issue a new judgment of
conviction based on the plea.
vacated and case remanded with direction.
Miller, P J, and Hodges, J, concur.